Yesterday morning I woke up exhausted. When I tried to open the freezer drawer to get frozen waffles out for Celeste’s breakfast, the upper shelf drawer got caught and I found myself in a 6am wrestling match with the freezer. I knew this wasn’t going to end well. I could feel my fuse shortening by the second. By the time my husband walked in, I was throwing frozen food across the kitchen floor, cursing the refrigerator and the chaotic state of the kitchen. Okay. Time out. How did I get here?
I did it to myself. July is my always my busiest teaching month but this year, somehow my schedule reached an unprecedented peak. The refrigerator incident was a by-product of my over-extending myself. Sure. But there’s more. The sort of agitation that results in throwing things out of your refrigerator has a deeper root. I think for me it comes from the realization that I was moving so fast that I was disconnecting. Everyday life was feeling abstract, intangible. Slick. I have been this busy before. This time, however it felt intolerable. Something in my core was fighting with this disconnect…this erosion of the senses. I wasn’t feeling any sparks from my physical world. Things were getting flat.
So, last night, there was an imperative for me to go sit at my local Shambhala meditation center followed by the Yin yoga class upstairs. It had really been weeks since I had made time to take care of myself in this way. I had to turn this around. I sat. Unbearable. I did yoga. Excruciating. The speed I had built up in my mind had so much momentum. Then I came home. My husband asked me how it went. I said that it was like trying to suckle on a teat that was just out of reach…how you know it would nourish you but you can’t quite taste it. He nodded in his quiet way. Then he started to tell me about how lately he has been listening to a lot of NPR podcasts on his commute. He told me that today he was brought to tears by a couple telling about the death of one of their 6 day old twins. As he relayed this story about love and loss, his willingness to share his vulnerability with me was slowly bringing me into the present moment. I was starting to feel. Thank you Johnathan.
Wake up. Wake up. WAKE UP.
Today I noticed something. I noticed that I was noticing. The deliciousness of this reconnection throughout the day repeatedly almost brought me to tears. It started when my daughter woke this morning at about 4:15am. She came into our room because she couldn’t fall back to sleep. My first thought was, “Oh no, I NEED sleep and now she is waking me up SO early…how will I manage today?” Then, we lay there in the early dawn gazing through our eastern facing bedroom window. She said, “Mom…it is so beautiful out right now. The dawn light is so soft.” Thank you Celeste.
Later this morning I stepped out of the house to walk our pup Captain and was struck by the coolness of the morning air. As we walked around the block, one of Captain’s frequent stops to sniff placed us in front of a small tree. I felt my busy mind starting to want to speed her along. “COME ON Captain…I have to get Celeste to class and I have to get to work…” Then I looked up. This unassuming tree and was filled with small, smooth green apples half-lit in the morning light. Full of potential. Thank you Captain.
On the way to dropping Celeste off at her RISD class, we had just enough time to stop at 7 Stars for coffee. Miraculously, the seasonal blueberry turnovers were back. I bought one and had them split it for us. The buttery pastry sprinkled with crunchy sugar crystals gave way to the tartness of the local blueberries. Heaven on my tongue. Thank you 7 Stars.
Later, I had to then drive to Worcester for a meeting. The parts of Worcester I had to drive through were pretty run down. However, rather than depressing me, I felt sparked by the beauty of the crisp morning light hitting the faded facades of these old buildings. It made me want to paint them. On my way home, I noticed the grass in the median on 146 was dancing in the breeze, shimmering silver green and red. Thank you Route 146.
Walking later around RISD, I looked up to see brilliant alto-cumulus clouds forming against the deep blue summer sky. They were breathtaking. Thank you clouds.
As my bottleneck of stress ebbs, I feel grateful to the world around me. My agitation was a result knowing deep in my heart that I wasn’t allowing myself to really BE. The vividness of this realization is increasingly intensified by my meditation practice. My practice of trying to just BE makes the NOT BEING intolerable. It highlights the potent discrepancy within me that brought me to the refrigerator incident.
What is the seed of this speed and stress? Ambition. Striving. Neither of these is problematic until they gain a sort of blind momentum. When I am over-committed and starting to short-circuit, underneath it all, I feel a deep well of sadness. I feel it is my obligation, my honor as an artist, mother, wife and teacher…a human being…to be PRESENT. You have to be present to be authentic. Speed is a sort of self-aggression which I know has affected me and my relationships with those around me over the years. Many of us are caught up in the same cycle. Speedy slickness doesn’t allow you to feel. When it eases up, this is when the feelings creep in. So we stay busy…busy, busy, busy. Until one day some of us feel an energetic imperative to slow down.
Slow down. SLOW.
Until next time, notice your threshold. Don’t take on too much, even if it means disappointing someone or not being perfect (whatever that is). Return to the practices that ground you and allow you to witness and be inspired by the world in all of its splendor. CREATE.